VARDAMAN, Miss. (WCBI) – A graduation party that ended in violence. A dead body found in a pond. A father and son arrested. An investigation on standby.
That is what the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Department is dealing with as they investigate the death of 25-year-old Heriberto Mata.
“Tragedy. We use that word a lot,” says Calhoun County Sheriff Greg Pollan. “Something that starts out so innocently and ends up where we are having to talk about something this is a tragedy.”
Sheriff Pollan says Mata, a Calhoun County resident, was at a girl’s high school graduation celebration in a neighborhood at the corner of King Street and Kennedy Avenue in Vardaman.
The party started Saturday and continued into Sunday morning. Authorities say it was around 5 a.m. when the incident took place.
“The deceased person (Mata) approached the DJ about playing longer,” Sheriff Pollan says. “That started an altercation that led to a physical altercation, which ultimately, unfortunately, leads us to where we are today.”
The sheriff says the fight involved as many as four people. Mata and a friend then left the party and that friend last saw him walking down County Road 438.
“Around 1 p.m. on Sunday he was reported missing,” the sheriff says. “Then around 3-3:30 p.m. the Calhoun County OSR team (Overland Search and Rescue) team was called out and mobilized.”
The search and rescue team found Mata’s body in a pond less than a mile from the scene. Sheriff Pollan says he can’t disclose any details about how the body was found at this time.
“That’s part of the investigation and I’ll be able to release more of those kinds of facts after the autopsy is done, which we are patiently awaiting,” he says.
Later that day, deputies arrested 48-year-old Cutberto Gutierrez and his 25-year-old son Hoscar on charges of aggravated assault from the fight at the party.
“In these types of situations, people don’t want to cooperate or come forward,” Sheriff Pollan says. “But several have (come forward) and they have been helpful and we’re going to continue to try to locate others that were at the party.”
Sheriff Pollan says charges against the Gutierrez men could be upgraded but that is something that will also have to wait on the autopsy report.
“Unfortunately, I have been told that there are approximately 60 cases ahead of us,” the sheriff explained. “So our medical examiner, our corner is working diligently to try to expedite that situation, but as of (Wednesday) morning, I’ve had no update to indicate that we’re going to get it any quicker.”
Sheriff Pollan says they are currently searching for two to four other people in connection with this incident, including some in other counties. Cutberto and Hoscar are currently out on bond.